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Logitech Gamepad for NUON Impressions and Review
by Michael Olshansky

Written On: 7/30/2001
Last Updated: 7/30/2001

Type: NUON Game Controller
Release Date: Now Available
Analog: Yes
MSRP: $29.95
Hack it!: Modify the Analog Stick

The Story

Logitech announced that they were developing products for Nuon in January of 2001. Knowing that Logitech has a long history of high-quality products, I was psyched that they were joining the Nuon bandwagon.

Nuon Dome was one of the first sites to both preview and playtest the new controller from Logitech. (To read the Nuon Dome playtest impressions, click here and scroll down to 5/17/01).

From the get-go, the controller seemed to have some "issues." Rather than paraphrase, here's a quote from Nuon Dome's E3 report:

    This controller is 100% quality, though the analog seems to react slower than normal...I found it difficult to corner properly in Merlin Racing. More playtime will prove how this effects other games, but otherwise this is a great controller.
While the first impression wasn't entirely positive, it's a well known fact that anything in a beta or pre-release state (be it hardware or software) is known to have a few issues. I figured that this was something minor and would indeed be fixed before release.

The following day, Nuon Dome posted a follow-up regarding their concerns:

    As mentioned yesterday, the controllers on display are a bit unresponsive when controlling with the analog stick. After speaking with Peter Stern from Logitech, he confirmed that they knew about the problem and were in the process of fixing it before the controllers go into production. After the controller is fixed and given the "thumbs up" from VM Labs, then it's only a matter of days until they go into production and will be available to the public.
Ok... fair enough. With the hardware being several months from production, I found the explaination complete acceptable and figured that a company known for such high-quality peripherals as Logitech would eventually deliver a solid product.
Fast-forward two months. The Logitech controller has been completed and is now appearing in stores. The controller certainly looks solid. Knowing how much I've trusted Logitech thru the years, I was hoping that they would have produced the best Nuon controller to date.

I was surprised to see a lone Logitech Nuon controller on the shelf at the local Best Buy last week (7/22/01 to be exact). I picked it up but hesitated... hoping to read a review or two. I read some posts on the NuonTalk Forums; many of which stated that the original problems reported at E3 two months earlier were never fixed.

Could there have been a bad batch of controllers? Unfortunately, this wasn't the case.

The problems were reported by dozens of loyal Nuon owners. Laggy control and poor analog response were reported by most everyone. There were a few people who said they didn't have any problems. My feeling is that these people don't own a HPI Stealth controller and have absolutely no basis for comparison. They don't realize that they've bought a terminally defictive product.

I figured that I'd buy one from Best Buy, since they have a liberal return policy. I could try the controller out and judge for myself whether these claims were exaggerated. So, I picked up the controller this afternoon, rushed home and fired up both Tempest 3000 and Merlin Racing.

The controller certainly looks great and feels like it's PC brethren; The buttons and analogue stick both feel really nice. It's clear that, in terms of build quality, Logitech hasn't disappointed. Unfortunately, a controller isn't any good if it doesn't provide tight, fast, snappy response when used with the games it's intended for. When playing a game like Tempest 3000, which requires lightning-fast reflexes, you can't afford the slightest impairment.

After a few hours of playtesting, I'm sorry to say that all the reports are ABSOLUTELY 100% TRUE.

I honestly feel sick to my stomach. How could companies known for quality and customer satisfaction release a product which they KNEW had problems months ago? Did they not playtest the controller?

It's not like we're dealing with playtesting on PC's, which have zillions of different hardware and software configurations. There are THREE pieces of hardware, all of which are based on a common reference design and API. If this problem appeared on just one specific model, it wouldn't be such a big deal. Unfortunately (this seems to be the word of the day.. and it's highly appropriate), the Logitech Nuon Gamepad problem is EXACTLY THE SAME ON ALL MAKES AND MODELS OF NUON DVD PLAYER.

Furthermore, there are only a handfull (read: 5) of games, and a few (read: 3) controllers for Nuon. It's not like it would take much intelligence or effort to test all the possible hardware/software combinations and determine that there's something "not quite right" with the Logitech pad...

I own both the Samsung N501 and the Toshiba SD-2300 DVD players, Merlin Racing and Tempest 3000, and now the Logitech Gamepad along with my trusty HPI Stealth controller.

I fired up T3K first and thought the Logitech seemed a bit sluggish. Hoping that it was just my imagination, I switched to the HPI Stealth. The difference between the two, using both the analogue and digital controls, was immediate and very obvious. The Logitech controller was noticably slower when using the analogue stick. I often found myself pushing the analogue stick harder in hopes that it would make a difference. The only difference it did make was a sore hand.

The lag was even more of an issue when using the d-pad. Whe moving from left-to-right and back, the Logitech controller actually PAUSED for a second when changing directions! This is COMPLETELY INEXCUSABLE AND TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE!

Already disturbed and disappointed, I tried Merlin Racing. Sure enough, the analogue problems everyone's complained about were there. When using the Stealth controller, the karts felt responsive.. like there was an actual sense of traction. When using the Logitech pad's analogue control, the karts felt like they were gliding on ice. There was no sense of traction. Wide turns were tough to negotiate since the Logitech stick doesn't provide a complete turning radius.

As an example, imagine if you were driving a real car and had a steering wheel that just didn't turn far enough. If you had to make a tight turn, it would be impossible. You would end up swerving into the opposing lane. It would be totally frustrating and highly dangerous.

The same goes for the Logitech gamepad. If you don't have precise, accurate, responsive control, your gaming experience will be frustrating and unrewarding. Those are the two words that best describe this travesty of engineering: Frustrating and Unrewarding.

Logitech and VM Labs should be entirely ashamed that they allowed a defective product on the mass market. This doesn't bode well for Nuon as a gaming platform either. If a company like Logitech can't manage to fix a product that had issues two months ago, it must be due to one of the following two reasons:

  1. One (or more) companies have employees who are completely asnine and/or brain dead.
    or
  2. Corporate politics (most likely at Logitech) forced the product to be released to market still-born, realizing that Nuon is not going to be a viable (or profitable) platform on which develop and market products.. opting instead to leave the bugs and release a knowingly defective product.
Option two is what caused a few companies to get slapped with Class Action Lawsuits. A similar incident happened to Hewlett-Packard and Philips awhile back (click here for more details).

Hopefully Logitech and/or VM Labs will recall these controllers or issue a firmware upgrade for Nuon-based players. Somehow.. I doubt either will happen.

It's really a travesty.. as many people have been loyal Nuon supporters from the very beginning (like me).

If you REALLY want to try this controller, make sure you buy it from a local store with a liberal return policy. I know mine will be returned tomorrow.

Bottom Line: A controller that feels great and is made of high quality materials ends up a HUGE disappointment due to niggling control issues. If you haven't bought this one yet, get yourself a HPI Stealth controller instead. If you've already got one, return it ASAP.. and while you're at it, call Logitech and bitch.

Copyright ©2001 Michael Olshansky. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted by permission for NUON-Dome.com

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